Art of shoemaking alive and well in Tržič
Paying tribute to its tradition of shoemaking, the northwestern town of Tržič celebrates Cobblers' Sunday every year at the beginning of September. Despite the demise of the once flagship shoe factory Peko, the art of shoemaking has been kept alive in the town, including by Proalp, a company leaning heavily on handwork to make sustainable footwear.
Proalp was founded in 1997 by Matej Slapar, who had learned the ropes working in Peko, a manufacturer famous for its high-quality fashion footwear.
Peko, whose beginnings date back to the start of the 20th century, went bankrupt in 2016, but the know-how remains, and Slapar, founder and director of Proalp, continues to build on it.
His vision has been making high-quality, foot-friendly and durable footwear from premium natural materials.
Employing 25 people, Proalp designs and manufactures shoes that allow natural foot movement. In addition to barefootwear and casual footwear, they also make hiking and mountaineering boots and test them out not far away from their workshop in Tržič, a town nestled in the mountains.
What is more, they make shoes to meet individual customer needs and adapt them to a potential foot deformity.
"Constant development is an essential part of our business, and we are always striving to use natural materials to create an optimal environment in the shoe, even when worn all day long," the company said.
When choosing materials, they place great emphasis on their origin. The top priority is given to parts made in Slovenia, but they note that production would not be possible without supplies from northern Italy, where the shoemaking industry is very strong.
They consider it key to have direct contact with suppliers, and they have been cooperating successfully with many companies from the very beginnings.
Proalp makes some 15,000 pairs of shoes per year, and it also provides repairs, corrections and sole replacements. There is great demand for outdoor footwear, and in recent years barefootwear has got popular too.
Its target market is primarily Slovenia, where the company has its own sales network. Customers from abroad, mainly interested in barefootwear, order shoes in Proalp's online shop, but the company does not sell its shoes to other retailers, as its philosophy is to maintain only direct sales to end customers.
In the future, they want to remain a small company using materials of local origin and continue to preserve the shoemaking tradition of Tržič.